Stop expecting your job candidates to perform like monkeys

I saw someone on my LinkedIn feed “like” a post that made my blood pressure spike. It was a post by someone who works at Big Tech Company and has hired for many positions for the past. Naturally, they felt that they were qualified to give “helpful” advice to job candidates on how to stand out in their interview. The advice included gems such as:

  • Stalk the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile to see what they’ve posted about recently and ask them about it during the interview.
  • Be respectful of the interviewer’s time, which means that if you notice you’re almost out of time, it’s your job to alert the interviewer and ask if they have time to keep talking.
  • Send a thank you letter to the interviewer after the interview. (The author was shocked — shocked! — that so many people don’t do it, even though it is apparently “the standard”.)
  • Use the thank you letter as an opportunity to expand on specific topics that were touched on during the interview, because — and this is a direct quote — you should go “beyond the, “I think I can bring a lot to the team,” by actually demonstrating HOW.”

Reading this, I have only one reaction: No. Nope. Just stop.

I wrote a strained but polite comment in the replies, but here is the less filtered version of how I really feel.

We live in 2022, not the Middle Ages. Interviewers are not lords, and interviewees are not serfs. Interviewers are not kings, and interviewees are not court jesters. Stop expecting your job candidates to jump through hoops and perform free labor and and dance for you like a monkey.

Work is a business transaction. The employee offers their time, expertise and labor to help the employer solve a particular problem or fill a particular need. In exchange, the employer compensates them with a salary and benefits. Yes, this is the case even for nonprofits. I don’t care if your job is to play with unicorns. If you are an employee, you deserve to be compensated fairly for your labor.

In an ideal world, work is inherently an equal, collaborative, and mutually beneficial business relationship between employee and employer.

In reality, unless one works in a very specific industry (such as IT), the power dynamic between employee and employer is very skewed in favor of the latter. In the United States, for most people, work is everything. Work is tied to one’s ability to have health insurance. Getting a paycheck each month is the only thing keeping a lot of people from sleeping on the streets. For many people, work is how they find meaning and purpose in their lives.

And instead of recognizing how fucked up this whole system is, power-tripping hiring managers are only too happy to take advantage of the system and perpetuate the cycle of abuse and exploitation — all because seeing job candidates beg and grovel and sing and dance delivers a massively satisfying stroke to their ego.

Reality check for hiring managers: When someone applies for your job, they take the time to read your job description. They spend time and energy crafting a cover letter and resume that is tailored specifically to your job. They navigate your confusing online application system, which demands that they fill in all of the details of their previous employment and education all over again, even though it’s already in the resume they’ve uploaded.

They participate in multiple rounds of interviews with your company. This means hours and hours of time preparing, researching your organization and reading up on its latest activities, practicing their answers to a long list of interview questions, spending money on a professional outfit, paying for gas or public transportation to travel to your office, paying for childcare, taking (potentially unpaid) time off from their current job, sitting your written tests, lining up their references….

And you’re still not satisfied because you want someone to go above and beyond to demonstrate how much value they can bring to the team. Shut the hell up.

Just for once, I’d like to see a hiring manager to consider what their job can bring to the interviewee, and work on selling that during the interview. For instance:

Do you offer a competitive salary that would allow your employee to pay their rent, groceries and student loans and still be able to save for an emergency fund?

Do you offer health benefits that cover those who are most vulnerable? (And do you offer reasonable sick leave that doesn’t pressure people to go in to the office when they’re ill?)

Do you offer generous parental leave that doesn’t force new parents to leave their infants way before they’re ready to go back to work?

Do you hold workplace bullies and toxic managers accountable, and do you take complaints like harassment and racism seriously (i.e., appropriately punishing or even firing the offenders)?

Is the job actually interesting and fulfilling? Are you a good, communicative, supportive manager (and can you provide three references from past reports)? Do you provide the kind of work environment that won’t create or worsen mental health issues for your employees, such as depression and anxiety? Do you trust your employees to work productively from home without micromanaging them? Do you allocate funding for them to participate in professional development activities? Do you respect that they have personal lives outside the 9-5 window and refrain from contacting them during their time off? Do you model and enforce a healthy work-life balance rather than preaching the false gospels of “hustle culture” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”?

The sad reality is that most hiring managers can’t honestly answer “yes” to most or any of these questions. Their pay is garbage, their workplace culture is garbage, and their management practices are garbage. Yet they are convinced that their awful, toxic jobs are these precious carrots that they can dangle over the heads of candidates.

And despite all the time, energy, labor, and money the candidate has put into preparing for an interview, they’re miffed because they didn’t get another thank-you letter kissing their ass.

Hey, hiring managers: if thank-you letters are such a required professional courtesy, then how about YOU send one for a fucking change?

Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

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